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MLK program includes Lou Gossett Jr., Danny Glover

Film stars and social activists Lou Gossett Jr. and Danny Glover will lend star power to the 21st annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium in January.
Mos Def

The event, which also is drawing hip-hop star Mos Def, will follow the theme "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" — which King wrote on April 16, 1963, in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail."

The theme was selected by the 40-member MLK Symposium Planning Committee, which assists in organizing several Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives (OAMI)-sponsored events. The committee and other University departments and units also coordinate symposium-related events from Jan. 10-Feb. 5, says Theda Gibbs, coordinator for the MLK Symposium.

While this year's symposium features two performers who are household names, Gibbs says there is an even bigger picture to ponder.

"It is important for us to consider someone who, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will bring consciousness and action to acts of injustice and someone who will appeal to the entire community " Gibbs says. "Louis Gossett Jr. is very active in social justice issues such as revitalizing New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina."

The actor — who won an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Fiddler in the historic TV mini-series "Roots" and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as a relentless military sergeant in the film "An Officer and a Gentleman" — serves as a spokesperson and a behind-the-scenes leader for many charitable organizations. Gossett started a nonprofit organization, The Eracism Foundation, with the aim of developing and producing entertainment that brings awareness to issues such as racism, ignorance and societal apathy.

Gossett will present the annual MLK Symposium keynote address at 10 a.m. Jan. 21 in Hill Auditorium.

Glover, best known for his roles in the "Lethal Weapon" movie series and in "The Color Purple," has won five NAACP Image Awards. As an activist, Glover's causes range from the AIDS crisis in Africa to mathematics education. In 1999 Glover filed a bias complaint with the New York City Taxi Commission, charging a cabdriver with discrimination for refusing to allow him to ride in the front passenger seat. This sparked Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's initiation of Operation Refusal, an anti-bias investigation of New York City cabdrivers.

Glover will perform in "An Afternoon with Martin and Langston," along with Felix Justice, at 1 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Power Center for the Performing Arts. Justice recites King's most memorable speeches, recreating the power of the man and his message, while Glover portrays writer Langston Hughes. After the performance, Glover and Justice will answer questions from the audience. Refreshments will be served following the question-and-answer session.

"The MLK Symposium Planning Committee continues to be impressed with the ongoing commitment of the campus community in recognizing and keeping the principals of Dr. King," says John Matlock, associate vice provost and OAMI director.

"Our students were born many years after the death of Dr. King. Yet they continue to be committed to the principles of social justice, community involvement, global awareness and civil rights," Matlock says. "Our annual recognition of the contributions of Dr. King is a reminder that the issues that he and many others fought for, and in many cases gave their lives, are still with us and there is much more to be done. We celebrate Dr. King's life in so many different ways and there is something for everyone."

Mos Def, who recently recorded with Kanye West, will perform at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 21 in Hill Auditorium. "He's also a very socially conscious actor and rapper, he is very committed to issues within the community," Gibbs says. Those issues include Al Gore's fight for environmental justice, and civil rights for the Jena 6 and Hurricane Katrina survivors.

"Our committee feels it's time to not only be more proactive about bringing awareness to social injustice but taking positive action against social injustice. Danny Glover and Lou Gossett and Mos Def are not only speaking about these issues but they are active in the community as well," Gibbs says.

A list of MLK Symposium events is posted at Campus units can submit event notices through Jan. 3 to appear online on the Web site.

Other MLK Symposium highlights include a law school-sponsored talk by James Forman Jr. at 2:30 p.m. Jan. 21 at 250 Hutchins Hall, several children's programs, overnight visits by high school students and programs at the U-M Detroit Center.

The mission of the MLK Symposium Planning Committee is to work collaboratively through the OAMI to provide guidance in the annual MLK Symposium. Every year, faculty, students, staff, academic units, departments and community members develop programs and initiatives to continue and remember the work and legacy of King. In addition to events that focus on historical authenticity and the civil rights movement of the 1960s, programs highlight historical and contemporary issues of race, class, social justice, diversity and societal change.

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